Style Tips for Bargain Decor

Fresh, funky, and super-cheap, these decorating ideas are wallet-friendly and style-savvy.

Take a Seat

Drive through any neighborhood on trash day and you're sure to find a beat-up chair or two. Rescue the sturdy ones with sandpaper, primer, and paint. Re-cover the seat by cutting fabric 3 inches larger all around and attaching it with a staple gun. For extra flair, embellish the chair back with rub-on lettering.

Bold Art

Scraps of decorative friezes, spindles, plinth blocks, or rosettes make a statement when set off by a frame. Insert colorful scrapbook paper in the frame as a background. Then use Mirror Mastic adhesive to apply the piece directly to the frame's glass.

Rethink Wallpaper

Save an awkward nook with wallpaper. Extra-large patterns work well to keep the look uncluttered, and the same paper used from floor to sloped ceiling helps unite the space.

Bits and Pieces

If a dresser is too junky to save, use one of its drawers for a magnetic board. Remove the hardware and then paint the drawer. Cut galvanized metal with a utility knife to fit the drawer bottom or order the exact size from a metal fabricator. Cut pretty paper, and glue it to the metal.

Fabric Art

Gather a few of your favorite fabrics and showcase them in an assortment of mismatched frames.

Creative Revamp

Create stunning bookends using antique or even mismatched corbels. Can't find them at a flea market? Buy some made from composite material at a home center (as we did). Use a gouge to carve a hole in the bottom of each one and fill with fishing sinkers. Use wood filler to seal the holes, paint, and then cover the bottoms with cork or felt. A basic bench becomes a striking coffee table with the addition of decorative molding on the sides and a coat of bold paint.

Fabric Redo

Too much clutter for glass cabinet doors? Hide the cabinet's contents by lining the glass panels with patterned fabric. On the back of each door, stretch the fabric over the glass and use a staple gun to fasten the edges to the wooden frame. For a tidy appearance inside, conceal the staples by gluing coordinating ribbon.

On a Ledge

Use epoxy to top crown-molding divider blocks with inexpensive plywood, then paint to create these miniature shelves.

New Purpose

Give new life to something old by rethinking it. This globe, once a neglected attic dweller, is now a unique centerpiece filled with potpourri.

Hang It Up

These finials were meant to be fastened to the end of curtain rods but work just as well when screwed into a wall and used as hooks. Decorative painting gives unfinished wooden finials a personal touch.

On the Wall

Turn a collection into bold wall art. Experiment with pattern; this starburst arrangement complements the beauty of the plates.

Table Topper

This vintage table doubles as a desk and a bedside stand. To soften the look for the bedroom, cover the top with fabric and fasten it along the edges with upholstery tacks.

Make a Statement

To create handmade art, get crafty with purchased felt shapes mounted in shadow boxes with scrapbook-paper mats. Decorative stick pins and snips of ribbon complete the look.

Savvy Centerpiece

Nestle colorful fruits and veggies around a pillar candle for a centerpiece you can put together on the fly. Grab lemons, oranges, or even asparagus -- whatever you have on hand.

Jewelry Art

Add sparkle to glass votives by stacking bracelets on footed candleholders, opposite. Vary the colors and styles of the bracelets for an eclectic look. For safety, use only votive candles in glass containers. Turn a wood cutlery tray into a beautiful piece of art. Glue scrapbooking papers to the bottom of each compartment using an adhesive appropriate for paper and wood; secure screw eyes to the cubbies to hold jewelry. Select favorite pieces to fill the tray. Jazz up paper lampshade shade by punching holes evenly around the bottom edge. Clip earrings through the holes.

Top-Drawer Design

Update an old side table by attaching scrapbook papers to the drawer fronts. Use repositionable spray adhesive and you can change the paper with the seasons. Alternately, cover the paper with clear polyurethane for a lasting surface.

Quick Frames

Rub-ons applied to glass quickly update basic picture frames. Pair the designer with framed pieces of pretty patterned paper for a low cost-gallery.

Tiny Details

These diminutive shadow boxes come unfinished in sets of two. Use wood glue or nails to add a length of spindle railing along the bottom, and then paint each piece.

New Planter

Create a stunning planter box using spare trim pieces. Start with a rough redwood planter and sand lightly. Glue on trim, prime and paint, and then install legs.


This unfinished armoire was begging for a face-lift, so we went for it with bold color. Splashy pink with stenciled embellishments turns utilitarian storage into a major design statement.

Frame What's Free

Create instant botanicals by hanging dried twigs and flowers inside frames hung over a bench or table. These frames are made from lengths of molding but any frame painted with a fresh color will do.

Fabric on the Cheap

Get big impact for just a little cash by buying small pieces of expensive fabric. It takes about a yard and a half for a short curtain or half a yard for a 16-inch pillow.

Stylish Mix and Match

Buy mix-and-match glasses to gather enough for a party. Check out flea markets and garage sales for orphaned glasses that can cost a dollar or less.

Discount Lighting

Inadequate lighting is a problem in most rental kitchens. Shed some light on cooking and cleanup with inexpensive desk lamps that can be redirected for the task at hand. This lamp cost just $17 at a discount store.

Color Styled

Grocery store flowers offer cheer for mere pennies, but don't just plop them in a vase. Sorting the blooms by color and separating them into small vessels make them much more stylish.

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